July 02, 2014

Legion honours vets who died on active duty

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Erin Legion held brief ceremonies on June 21 at the gravesites of two local pilots who died in military plane crashes that occurred 36 years apart.

The tributes were followed by the 55th annual service organized by the Erin Union Cemetery Improvement Committee, for all families with loved ones buried there.

Rev. Deacon Irene Walback presided, with Kent Tocher and Jane Adair providing music, and Brad Wilson of Erin Bible Chapel offering a prayer. Jim O’Connor thanked the Legion and the public for their financial support of the committee, which helps with maintenance of the cemetery.
Walback also thanked Branch 442 Service Officer Doug Kirkwood for helping to preserve the memories of two Erin men killed while on active duty with the Canadian Armed Forces and buried at Union Cemetery.

Flight Cadet Harry Sanders died on September 17, 1918 while flying solo near Camp Leaside, a Royal Air Force training facility that is now part of Toronto. He lost control of his machine when it suddenly burst into flames at 1,000 feet, and crashed immediately to the ground.

Sanders, 29, was advanced in his training and been given medical clearance to fly after a sick leave. An inquest found no evidence of problems with the plane before the flight.

He was buried with Masonic honours, with the service conducted by Chaplain Morris of Camp Leaside. The Erin Advocate noted that it was one of the largest funerals seen here in many years, and that Sanders had lost his mother just four months earlier.
Flying Officer Doug Covert died on June 4, 1954 at the age of 19, working as a flying instructor in Penhold, Alberta. He was killed in a crash of a Harvard training plane, along with Flight Cadet Svend Jark of Haderslav, Denmark.

He was described in the Advocate as an outstanding, popular student, a graduate of Erin District High School where Doug Kirkwood was a fellow student. Covert joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1952, the same year he graduated. He had trained at several RCAF bases, and had recently been appointed as an instructor.

He was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Bert Covert of Erin. The last rites were observed with a sounding of the last post, three volleys by the firing squad and reveille. The pall-bearers were school friends Jim Houston, William Jackson, Ron Jackson, Wilfred Major, Jim Milne and Charles Overland. The flower bearers were Air Force veterans Cecile Carney, Earl Fuller, Leo Lyons, Robert Meehan, L.G. MacKenzie and W. Winters.

Above, the 1954 funeral in Erin for Doug Covert.
Below, the recent memorial service at the gravesite.